Constructing a diasporic identity: Tracing the origins of the Gnawa spiritual group in Morocco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This article reconstructs the forgotten past of the Gnawa who, over many generations, productively negotiated their forced presence in Morocco to create acceptance and group solidarity. The diaspora of black West Africans in Morocco, the majority of whom were forcefully transported across the Sahara and sold in different parts of Morocco, shares some important traits with the African trans-Atlantic diaspora, but differs at the same time. There are two crucial differences: the internal African diaspora in Morocco has primarily a musical significance and it lacks the desire to return to the original homeland. This diaspora is constructed positively around the right to belong to the culture of Islam, unlike the construction of the African American diasporic double consciousness. Black consciousness in Morocco exists in analogy to the Berber consciousness or the Arab notion of collective identity; it does not constitute a contradiction with itself. Black Moroccans perceive themselves first and foremost to be Muslim Moroccans and only perceive themselves secondarily as participants in a different tradition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-260
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of African History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


  • African diaspora
  • Islam
  • Memory
  • Morocco
  • Music
  • Ritual
  • Slavery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


Dive into the research topics of 'Constructing a diasporic identity: Tracing the origins of the Gnawa spiritual group in Morocco'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this